Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be?

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3 ILO Asian Regional Programme on Governance of Labour Migration Working Paper No.3 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? Nasra M Shah January 2008

4 Copyright International Labour Organization 2008 First published 2008 Publications of the International Labour Office enjoy copyright under Protocol 2 of the Universal Copyright Convention. Nevertheless, short excerpts from them may be reproduced without authorization, on condition that the source is indicated. For rights of reproduction or translation, application should be made to ILO Publications (Rights and Permissions), International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland, or by The International Labour Office welcomes such applications. Libraries, institutions and other users registered with reproduction rights organizations may make copies in accordance with the licences issued to them for this purpose. Visit to find the reproduction rights organization in your country. Shah, Nasra M. Recent labor immigration policies in the oil-rich Gulf : How effective are they likely to be? / Nasra M. Shah ; International Labour Office ; ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Asian Regional Programme on Governance of Labour Migration. - Bangkok: ILO, p. (Working paper ; no.3) ISBN: ; (web pdf) International Labour Office; ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific; Asian Regional Programme on Governance of Labour Migration immigration / immigrant / migrant worker / international migration / migration policy / Gulf States ILO Cataloguing in Publication Data The designations employed in ILO publications, which are in conformity with United Nations practice, and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the International Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers. The responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles, studies and other contributions rests solely with their authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office of the opinions expressed in them. Reference to names of firms and commercial products and processes does not imply their endorsement by the International Labour Office, and any failure to mention a particular firm, commercial product or process is not a sign of disapproval. ILO publications and electronic products can be obtained through major booksellers or ILO local offices in many countries, or direct from ILO Publications, International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. Catalogues or lists of new publications are available free of charge from the above address, or by Visit our website: Printed in Thailand

5 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? Table of Contents 1. Introduction Rising Unemployment: A driving force behind restrictive policies Expressed government policies to reduce future immigration 3 2. Policies aimed at affecting supply of foreign and demand for local workers Policies aimed to restrict supply of workers Rise in cost of living Nabbing and deportation of overstayers and illegals Stricter regulation of visa issuance Restrictions on visa trading Policies aimed to increase the demand for indigenous workers Creating job opportunities through training Creating job opportunities through market based measures Nationalization through administrative measures Probable effectiveness of current policies Conclusion 17 References 18 List of Tables Table 1- % of nationals and expatriates in population and labor force of GCC countries 20 Table 2. Male and Female Unemployment among Ages Table 3. View and policy on immigration and emigration levels in the GCC countries 22 Table 4. Additional specific policies and emigration 23 Table 5. Occupational Distribution of Kuwaiti Males and Females 24 Table 6. Occupational Distribution of Non-Kuwaiti Males and Females 25 Table 7. Kuwaiti Labor Force according to Occupation, Sector of Activity and Sex 26 List of Figures Fig. 1. Policies aimed at reducing supply and demand of foreign workers in GCC 27 Appendix: Data Sources and Guide to Policy 28 Page

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7 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? Nasra M Shah * 1. Introduction The oil-rich Gulf countries comprise a region with exceptionally high international migration of persons originating from a wide range of countries. The six countries that comprise this sub-region include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates (UAE), which are joined together for several purposes in an association known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). For the last three decades expatriates have come to outnumber nationals in several of the GCC countries populations. During the 1970s and 1980s, large scale migration of guest workers started as a response to the increase in the price of oil, and the consequent plans of the GCC countries for rapid development. Such plans necessitated the import of very large numbers of foreign workers since the indigenous labor forces were usually small in number and did not have the variety of skills required for the development of infrastructure and other projects. In the initial stages, construction workers were a major category of workers imported. While the demand for construction workers declined somewhat with the completion of projects, a persistent demand for such workers still exists, especially for the creation of new housing projects and buildings required for the growing number of nationals. The GCC countries have fairly high population growth rates and the number of births per woman is generally more than 4 in case of most countries. In some countries such as the UAE, construction projects are also under way as a means of investment, especially in Dubai. Besides construction workers, another major category of workers consists of those in cleaning services, helpers, and domestic service. Among domestic workers, women generally constitute a majority in most of the GCC countries. Among the sending countries, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia and India are the major ones. Over the years, * Professor, Department of Community Medicine and Behavioural Sciences, Kuwait University Faculty of Medicine.

8 2 Nasra M Shah the number of domestic workers has been increasing. In Kuwait, for example, housemaids comprised 7.1 % of Kuwait s population (of 2.87 million) and numbered 203,406 in 2005 (PACI, 2005). Table 1 indicates the predominance of expatriates in Gulf countries. The percentage of non-nationals ranged from a low of 24% in Oman to 78% in Qatar in In case of the labor force, more than half in each country comprised expatriates in the early 2000s. In 2005, the combined estimated GCC population was 35.8 million with expatriates constituting 12.8 million (35.7 %). It was estimated that if the expatriate population continued to increase at the present rate it might reach 18 million after ten years (Kuwait Times, December 20, 2004). UN estimates for 2005 indicate that in the largest GCC country, Saudi Arabia, foreigners constitute 6.4 million (or 26 %) of the 24.5 million residents (UN, 2006). Some other sources report the number of foreigners to be as high as 8.8 million. However, various estimates suggest that foreigners comprise % of the labor force and 95 % of the private sector workforce. In UAE, foreigners constitute 71 % of the 4.5 million residents (Table 1); and fill 98 % of the private sector jobs (Migrant News, December 2005). The continued predominance of foreign workers in the population and labor force of the GCC countries has been accompanied by a whole range of policies to regulate and manage such migration. A general policy aimed at curtailing the number of foreign workers has been present for several years. This general policy started getting translated into action and implementation through various means during the mid 1990s. The goal of this paper is to highlight the major policies and discuss some of the social and economic factors that may facilitate or hinder their effective implementation. An important reason for the increasingly active and forceful implementation of policies to reduce migration is the rising levels of unemployment in the GCC countries, described in the next section Rising Unemployment: A driving force behind restrictive policies A major reason for the restrictive policies is the rising level of unemployment among the nationals that has been raising difficult economic and political questions for the governments. Reliable and consistent data on unemployment in the GCC countries is unavailable. A recent ESCWA publication provides such information disaggregated for

9 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? 3 males and females for various years during the 1990s and early 2000s (Table 2). Among the six GCC countries, Oman is reported to have an especially high unemployment rate, especially among females with 37 % of them unemployed in Media reports relating to more recent time periods, however, indicate that the data shown in Table 2 probably underestimate the level of unemployment currently prevalent in most countries. The following account illustrates this point vividly. Unemployment in Saudi Arabia, the largest GCC country, had increased to about 13% among all males in 2004 and is estimated to be as high as 35% among the youth aged (Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2004, pg A1). Male unemployment rate went up progressively from 7.6 % in 1999 to 9 % in 2000, 10.5 % in 2001, 11.9 % in 2002 and 12.5 % in 2003 (Arab News, April 15, 2004). The country is also faced with a demographic tidal wave of those 56% aged less than 20 who are expected to enter the labor force in the next two decades, amounting to a total of about 100,000 new jobs required per year ((Arab News (Saudi Arabia), Feb 5, 2004). In Bahrain, unemployment stands at 15 % (The Gulf News(UAE), February 11, 2003). Unemployment has already resulted in some political unrest, such as the sit-ins outside the Assembly in Bahrain. In the UAE, it is estimated by the head of labor market studies at Tanmia (the national human resource development and employment authority) that current actual unemployment figures among UAE nationals could reach as high as 40,000 (AMN, June 1-15, 2005). Some economists have concluded that unemployment is the biggest policy challenge facing the GCC at the moment (www.gulfbusiness.com, December 1, 2004) Expressed government policies to reduce future immigration Foreign workers have helped in the rapid transformation of the infrastructure as well as institutional development in the Gulf and they were generally welcome until a few years ago. At the same time, Gulf countries have been making statements about the need for indigenization of the labor force and a reduction in the percentage of the expatriate population and workers for many years. However, during the last decade or so, concrete policies aimed at enhancing indigenization and reducing the numbers of foreign workers have actually begun to be implemented.

10 4 Nasra M Shah In terms of their attitudes towards future migration flows, all the Gulf countries would like to reduce the number of expatriate workers in their population. Most of them have expressed these attitudes in response to the UN surveys eliciting opinions on the level of immigration and emigration. In 2005, five of the six oil-rich Gulf Cooperation (GCC) countries (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)) considered the immigration level to their countries to be too high and expressed a desire to lower it. The remaining country, Bahrain, considered the level to be satisfactory, however. Bahrain stated it had a policy to maintain the immigration level (Table 3) (UN, 2006). A review of the opinions, attitudes and policies towards immigration in the Gulf region indicates that in all six countries the trend towards restricting the inflows has increased. Also, steps towards the actual implementation of the long standing policies are more actively being taken and enforced. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have responded more specifically to the UN query on policies regarding immigration and emigration as shown in Table 4. Kuwait has a policy to lower the permanent settlement of immigrants and its policy for granting citizenship is highly restricted. In addition to its general policy for curtailing labor migration, Kuwait also has a policy to lower the number of dependents of migrant workers. One of the ways in which the country fulfills this policy is by putting a salary ceiling on workers who are allowed to bring their family with them. Also, the country has no program for the integration of migrants since it views them as temporary workers who are in the country on renewable contracts that are awarded generally for about 2 years at a time. A listing of various restrictive policies that GCC countries have formulated and are putting in place to curb future migration is shown in Figure 1. A brief discussion of these policies is given below, and a comprehensive account may be found in Shah (2006). The existing policies may be divided into two broad types, those aiming to reduce the supply of foreign workers and the ones aiming to enhance the growth and demand for indigenous workers. Each is discussed in turn.

11 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? 5 2. Policies aimed at affecting supply of foreign and demand for local workers Before proceeding with a discussion of the policies meant to affect the supply and demand of workers, it may be noted that most of the day to day policies relate to the regulation of migrant workers. Migrant workers are not entitled to citizenship by virtue of their length of stay in the GCC countries. Also, children born in the country are not entitled to citizenship. Research from Kuwait has shown that expatriates often stay in the country for prolonged periods of time exceeding 20 years in some cases (Shah, 2004). In most GCC countries, there is no provision for permanent resident status. Regardless of their duration of stay expatriates are defined as temporary workers, a fact that is reinforced by the renewal of contracts for relatively short time periods, usually not more than two years. A migrant worker comes to Kuwait on the basis of a work contract issued upon the request of a sponsor. Once in the host country, the worker must obtain a residence permit (or iqama), which is issued only for the period of the contract Policies aimed to restrict supply of workers Rise in cost of living Indirect taxes that raise revenue for the host country and make life more expensive for the expatriates can have the impact of reducing the attractiveness of the Gulf market as a destination site. An example is health fees instituted in Kuwait in 1999 and in Saudi Arabia in In the UAE which has had a policy of health insurance for the last several years, a new fee for all surgical procedures was recently introduced, much to the unhappiness of several expatriates. A fee ranging from dirhams (Dh) (US$ 136 to $1089) was imposed, depending on the type and complexity of the surgery (Kuwait Times, May 9, 2005). According to a new health insurance scheme to be implemented in the UAE in 2006, the employer will no longer be required to pay for the mandatory health insurance for the workers. The employees would have to pay the premium for their national health insurance thus bearing additional costs in a situation where the wages are already fairly stagnant (AMN, January 15-31, 2006). A migrant worker in Kuwait must buy a health insurance for himself as well as each member of his family, if accompanying him. The employer often does not pay such insurance in the private sector where about 93 % of all expatriates work (PACI, 2005).

12 6 Nasra M Shah Even in cases when the employer pays the yearly insurance premium, each visit to the primary care clinic entails a fee of 1 Kuwaiti dinar (KD) ($ 3.4) and to the hospital a fee of 2 KD ($ 6.8). For an ordinary worker who generally earns around dollars a month, the cost may be considerable. For certain specialized tests such as an MRI additional fee must be paid. At the time when the health fee was implemented in 1999, several foreign workers in Kuwait decided to send their dependent wives and children to the home country since they could not afford to pay health insurance. Expatriates are complaining in the UAE about the exorbitant fees now being charged for the verification of their university degree certificates after the change in this process in Under the new Degree Verification Program, expatriates must send their attested degree certificates through IntegraScreen, a document verification company, via Emirates Post. This process would cost Dh510 (US$ 139), whereas previously they had to pay only Dh100 (US$27) for attestation of the same documents at their home country and in the UAE (AMN, January 15-31, 2006). In Saudi Arabia a more direct tax consists of a fund (100 Saudi riyals or 26.6 US dollars) collected from each foreign worker per year towards the establishment of training programs for indigenous workers (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), July 10, 2002). A proposal for such a tax was also being considered in the UAE where an annual fee of Dh 100 (US$ 27) would be collected from each expatriate renewing or issuing his labor card. This fee would then be used to develop a fund to train UAE nationals (The Gulf News (UAE), September 9, 2003) Nabbing and deportation of overstayers and illegals An irregular or illegal migrant can be found in the GCC countries as a result of any of the following. First, a person may enter the country illegally (either without required documents or with fictitious documents). Occasionally accounts of trafficking and human smuggling across the Gulf are found in the newspapers but this type of illegal entry is quite rare. Second, the person may become illegal through overstaying after the contract and the legal residence period has expired. Estimates of this type of illegal migration are substantial, judging from the repeated periods of amnesty declared by

13 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? 7 various countries to allow the overstayers to leave without paying substantial fines (Shah, 2004; Shah, 2006). The third type of irregular stay occurs when a migrant worker takes up employment for a person other than the sponsor. This type of irregular stay is again quite substantial but no systematic or reliable information on which is available from routinely collected data. The main reason for the occurrence of this type of irregular migration may be described as follows. Nationals of GCC countries may obtain business licenses and concomitant permission to import a given number of workers, and are thus given work visas for this purpose. They may, however, sell the visas to persons looking for such visas instead of starting a business or using all the visas for the approved business. This type of visa trading has become fairly widespread in the GCC countries. The person who buys the visa may find a job with an employer other than the one who initially sponsored him/her. This puts the migrant worker in an illegal status since legally he is not allowed to work for any one other than the sponsor. Media reports indicate that visa trading is recognized as an important problem in orderly management of labor migration but remains an area where the statistical database is very weak. Vigorous efforts have been made in Saudi Arabia in recent years to nab and deport those who may have overstayed their visa duration as well as those who may have an illegal visa status. In June, 2005 Saudi authorities arrested more than 2,700 visa violators in certain districts of Jeddah most of whom were from Arab and African countries. The arrests resulted in the closure of 45 illegal clothing factories, several prostitution dens and factories producing alcoholic beverages (Asian Migration News, June 1-15, 2005). One of the consequences of overstay has been the presence of homeless persons on the streets in Saudi Arabia, trying to survive in makeshift shelters. The Human Rights Association estimates that despite the efforts at removing and deporting such people there are between homeless people in the country, mostly women, children and elderly (AMN, October 1-15, 2005). As part of the overall effort to reduce the number of overstayers and illegals, Gulf countries have declared repeated periods of amnesty since mid 1990s to encourage the departure of those residing in the host countries in an illegal visa situation which is largely a result of being employed by a company that is not the legal sponsor of the

14 8 Nasra M Shah worker. In the UAE, about 100,000 persons left in 2003 as a result of the amnesty program while the number of yearly deportees from Saudi Arabia is about 700,000 (AMN, September 2005). In Kuwait the latest amnesty period was offered from November 20 to December 31, According to the Indian and Filipino embassies the response to this amnesty from illegal residents wishing to leave was overwhelming (Kuwait Times, November 22, 2004). According to the Department of Immigration within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, an estimated 60,000 expatriates who have violated their visas are living in Kuwait. Oman announced an amnesty period that was extended to December 31, 2005 to enable overstayers to leave the country after paying a fine. An overstayer has to raise roughly Omani Riyal (RO) 400 (US$1,039), RO250 (US$649) for the fine and RO150 (US$ 390) for the airfare. (AMN, Sept 15, 2005). A more detailed account of amnesty leavers may be found in Shah (2004) Stricter regulation of visa issuance A hard look is again being taken at the issuance of new work permits, and the transfer of existing work permits from one employer to another. All the GCC countries have policies to restrict the number of approved work visas (Fasano and Goyal, 2004). In February 2003, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in Bahrain said that from 2005, he was not prepared to renew or issue work permits for non-bahrainis with exceptions to be made for highly skilled workers not available among nationals. At the same time, the Cabinet approved a plan to allow local firms to apply for temporary work permits for foreigners limited only to six months (The Gulf News, February 11, 2003). One of the strategies used by Saudi Arabia in 2004 to restrict labor import was the ban on visa issuance to new companies and those that employed less than 10 workers. Upon approaching the Labor Office, the Saudi employers whose requests for work permits had been denied were asked to hire Saudis. These employers responded that they either did not find Saudis for the jobs or they found ones who asked for a salary higher than the business could afford (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 30, 2004). The labor office, by putting the ban, was also trying to curb the practice of visa trading, as discussed below.

15 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? Restrictions on visa trading As mentioned earlier, a system of visa trading emerged during the last two to three decades because the demand for visas to the Gulf exceeded supply. In the UAE it is estimated that the number of workers sponsored by these fictitious companies in 2004 was 600,000 or 27% of the total workforce (UAE-Gulf News, April 13, 2004). As part of its efforts to curb the hiring of illegal workers, 11,600 bans were issued against violating sponsors and companies during 2004 in the UAE (Gulf News Online (UAE), February 22, 2005). The Saudi Minister of Labor recently said that 70% of the visas issued by the government are sold on the black market and the government was determined to crack down on this (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 29, 2004). Similar statements are repeatedly made by authorities in other GCC countries. The Bahrain Minister of Labor and Social Affairs recently lamented the practice that has plagued the Bahraini job market for the last 20 years. In August 2004, the government was undertaking a process of investigating 43 businesses found to engage in this practice (The Arab News, August 4, 2004). The Kuwait Human Development report of 1997 acknowledged the presence of visa trading as one of the factors that promoted the influx of foreign workers to Kuwait and advocated the implementation of serious steps to curb this practice (Ministry of Planning, 1997). The scale of the problem clearly illustrates that visa trading is a multi-million dollar industry. In the UAE, for example, a work visa for an Indian is sold for Dh 7,500 (US$ 2,042) and for an Iranian for Dh 15,000 (US $ 4,084). A fundamental difficulty in the implementation of any policies aimed at curbing visa trading is therefore the ease with which an ordinary local sponsor can have a continuous source of income coupled with a market in sending countries where many are eager to buy such visas at any cost Policies aimed to increase the demand for indigenous workers Creating job opportunities through training In Saudi Arabia, millions of dollars are being spent on job-training, technical schools and cash incentives for Saudi companies to hire Saudi citizens. In some cases the government is paying half the salary in order to encourage private sector employers to hire national workers. The high price of oil in the last few years has resulted in a budget

16 10 Nasra M Shah surplus part of which is earmarked go to the Human Resource Development Fund, which subsidizes the salaries of as many as 30,000 Saudis each year as an incentive for companies to hire them. It is also planned that technical and vocational training institutes will build 59 new campuses, doubling the number of annual graduates in fields such as cosmetology, computer programming, meat cutting, and plumbing. Nearly all jobs in the above fields are currently manned by foreigners (The Washington Post, August 31, 2004). In 2004, only about 13 % of the private-sector workforce in Saudi Arabia consisted of nationals even though the goal was to have 45 % nationals composing the private sector. Policies similar to the ones in Saudi Arabia are also being implemented in other GCC countries Creating job opportunities through market based measures Raising the cost of hiring foreign workers is a possible strategy that may add a constraint to the demand for foreign workers. In Bahrain, the cost of hiring foreign domestic workers has gone up from BD50 (US$ 133) to BD150 (US$ 398) for various nationalities. The recruitment agencies are now charging BD150 more for Indonesian housemaids due to the stricter regulations imposed by Indonesia (AMN, November 1-15, 2005) Nationalization through administrative measures Direct policies and plans to phase out the reliance on foreign workers are in process. A decision was made in 2003 in Saudi Arabia by the Manpower Council under the direction of the Crown Prince to cap the level of expatriates and their dependents at 20% of the population by 2013, and to halve the number of expatriate workers (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 16, 2003). Kuwait is implementing a ceiling of less than 35% expatriates to be employed in the government sector (Al-Ramadhan, 1995). Recently, the Civil Service Commission in Kuwait has set a new annual target of 15 % for replacing the expatriates in the government sector, increased from the earlier mark of 7 %, starting from April 1, 2006 (Kuwait Times, March 4, 2006, p.2). A focused strategy on the part of several GCC countries is to pinpoint the occupations where phasing out of expatriates will be done on a priority basis. In UAE,

17 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? 11 the banking sector is one of the sectors where quotas for Emiratisation have been set up. However, it has been found that more than half the banks have not complied with this quota. They are willing to pay the penalty for non-compliance instead of hiring nationals, indicating the difficulties of implementing government policies on this matter (Gulf News (UAE), September 22, 2004). In Oman, which has the lowest percentage of nonnationals among all GCC countries, a decision to create job opportunities for national women was recently made. Only Omani women are now allowed to sell abaya (women s cloaks) in certain sections of Muscat as a means of reducing reliance on foreign workers (Agence France Press, July 1, 2004). Oman is also making efforts to Omanise several other occupations such as those of cashiers, drivers, and security officers. In the UAE, all the contractors signing deals with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing are being encouraged to employ national women engineers to reduce the pool of jobless female specialists (The Gulf News (UAE), February 12, 2003). The Dubai Naturalization and Residency department has ordered that public relations jobs be restricted to UAE nationals in order to generate more jobs for local job seekers (AMN, June 1-15, 2005). Another strategy to regulate and limit the inflow of foreign workers is the implementation of a quota system whereby guidelines are provided to the companies to diversify the workers they hire from any single nationality in order to achieve a culture balance. Companies in which workers of any one nationality exceed 30 % have to pay a higher fee (AMN, June 1-15, 2005). In Saudi Arabia, 25 occupations designed for phasing out expatriates have been identified, including travel, gold and jewelry shops, grocery stores etc. (Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2004, pg A1). The government is extremely serious in implementing these policies judging from the enforcement raids that are being launched to ensure that the guidelines for employment of Saudis are being followed. In Jeddah, it was found that 60% of the gold shops are owned by expatriates and many remained closed when the law came into effect (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), Feb, 24, 2004). Kuwait has also joined the other GCC countries recently by specifying 16 jobs which are no longer open to expatriates. Such jobs include computer programming, computer operation and data entry, secretarial, typing and clerical jobs, cashiers, and car drivers etc. (Kuwait Times, March 4, 2006, p.2).

18 12 Nasra M Shah 3. Probable effectiveness of current policies The main thrust of the current policies is to restrict the stocks and flows of foreign workers (and their families) and enhance the absorption of nationals in the labor force. In order for the above policies to succeed, two strategies that are inherently related to each other are essential. First, restricting the import of additional foreign workers and retiring or firing the existing ones. Second, the replacement of foreign workers by indigenous ones. Numerous difficulties are inherent in both of these possible strategies, as illustrated below by using the case of Kuwait. An examination of the occupational distribution of Kuwaiti males and females indicates that both sexes are concentrated in only a few occupations (Table 5). For example, more than half the males were employed in a single occupational category working as clerks, while a fifth were employed in professional and technical work at the end of The concentration among women was even more pronounced with 85 % working in either a professional/technical job or a clerical job. When the above distribution is compared with that of non-kuwaitis, shown in Table 6, major differences are observed. We find that 51 % of the non-kuwaiti males were employed as production workers and laborers (compared with only 8 % among Kuwaiti males) while 21 % were employed in the services sector. Among non-kuwaiti women, occupational concentration was truly extreme with 71 % working in the services sector, primarily as housemaids. About 10 % of non-kuwaiti women were working in professional or technical and 6 % in clerical occupations. Thus, a comparison of the occupational distributions in Tables 5 and 6 clearly shows that Kuwaitis and non-kuwaitis are fulfilling very different roles in the Kuwaiti economy. Among non-kuwaitis males, for example, more than 600,000 are engaged in production related or general labor work. This number is more than three times as high as the total labor force of Kuwaiti males. Hence, the country simply does not have the requisite number of people to fulfill the required jobs, assuming that all these jobs are essential for the growth of the Kuwaiti economy. In addition to the shortage of numbers, it is well known that nationals do not consider production and labor occupations as desirable jobs. They have a preference for professional/technical and clerical jobs. In case of women, it would socially be almost unimaginable that a Kuwaiti woman would

19 Recent Labor Immigration Policies in the Oil-Rich Gulf: How Effective are they Likely To Be? 13 work as a domestic helper in another Kuwaiti s home. Hence, certain occupations have come to be defined as culturally appropriate only for non-kuwaitis, and nationals would be greatly reluctant to take them up. Hence, in a situation where the two groups are performing very different tasks, replacement of one by the other is bound to be very difficult, if not impossible. Additional insight into the factors that may limit the effectiveness of replacement policies is provided in Table 7, which disaggregates the male and female occupational distributions of Kuwaiti nationals by public vs. private sector of activity. About 90 % of each sex was employed in the public sector in With the exception of administrative and sales occupations, almost 90 % of Kuwaiti males were employed in the public sector within each occupational category. A similar situation existed for Kuwaiti females, where negligible percentages were participating in the administrative and sales occupations anyhow. Table 7 shows that two-thirds of Kuwaiti males working in sales related occupations were employed in the private sector which appears to suggest a large amount of replacement of non-kuwaitis by Kuwaiti nationals. While this may be true to some degree, it should be noted that the sales sector was a relatively small one, employing only 1.3 % of all Kuwaiti males and 5.5 % of all non-kuwaiti males. Similarly, the administrative and managerial sector employed only 3.3 % of the male Kuwaiti labor force. The above data are in sharp contrast to the sectoral composition of non-kuwaiti workers 93 % of who were employed in the private sector. Of the total labor force in Kuwait, the private sector constituted 78 %. Kuwaitis filled 2.3 % of all the private sector jobs. The relative contribution to the total private sector jobs by Kuwaiti men and women was 1.3 % and 0.9 %, respectively (PACI, 2005). The two main conclusions that may be drawn from the analysis of Kuwaiti and non-kuwaiti occupational distributions are as follows. First, there is an apparent need for a larger number of nationals. The national labor force constitutes only about 18 % of the total labor force. Hence, additional hands are needed to fill all the jobs the economy seems to have room for. Second, non-nationals are typically occupying jobs that are economically and socially at the relatively lowest levels in the occupational distribution. It is debatable whether all these jobs are necessary in an economic sense. Several service jobs held by non-kuwaitis, especially those of domestic service, are intended mainly to

20 14 Nasra M Shah buy a more luxurious lifestyle rather than to enhance the productivity of the economy. In some cases, the presence of a housemaid may in fact have economic utility insofar as it facilitates women s participation in the labor force. An examination of the employment of domestic helpers by Kuwaiti households indicates, however, that almost 90 % of all households employ a helper regardless of the work status of the women in that household (Shah et al, 2002). The foregoing account for Kuwait illustrates some of the difficulties inherent in the replacement of foreign workers by indigenous ones. GCC countries other than Kuwait are faced with very similar occupational profiles. At the political level, governments are totally committed to the indigenization of the population and workforce as a matter of strategic importance. A draft resolution to cut down the number of expatriates was discussed at the annual GCC summit held in Bahrain in December 2004 where the presence of expatriates was described as a danger for our Arab-Islamic culture (Kuwait Times, December 20, 2004). The formulation and active implementation of the multitude of policies described above clearly reflect the concerns of GCC governments. While the intentions for restricting the inflow of foreign workers are clear and unequivocal and policies aimed at achieving this continue to emerge regularly, the recorded effectiveness of such policies presents a mixed picture. The Saudi government, for example, typically announces that foreigners can no longer be employed in certain sectors, it stages a few raids (such as on the jewelry shops mentioned above) and then backs off when private businesses complain they cannot operate with only Saudis (Migrant News, December 2005). In the travel sector, for example, Saudi Arabia was looking to achieve 81 percent Saudization in a period of three years starting in April However, the response of the travel agencies to submit plans for Saudization, or face closure, did not initially produce a good compliance from the travel agencies (Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 13, 2004). Nevertheless, the government is determined to push ahead with a process which it says is the key to delivering jobs to more than 100,000 Saudis joining the labor force every year (www.gulfnews.com, March 12, 2004). One indicator of the limited effectiveness of policies is the increase in the expatriate population in Saudi Arabia from 5.02 to 5.7 million during 1999 to early 2004

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